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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Actually, Mr. Chairman, if I could, I would strike many of the words we've heard today.

I first want to acknowledge the leadership of my colleague from California. He has a characteristic that is all too rare in politics, an intellectual consistency. We have people on the one hand that talk about freedom of the individual, liberty, and respect for States' rights, but when it comes up against some pet project of theirs, all that goes out the window.

Let's be very clear. This is not a case of people advocating that other people smoke marijuana. It is for me an advocacy that we allow people some degree of free choice. I listened to the gentleman from Virginia, and I admire his diligence. But I have to say, I disagreed with almost everything he said. There was one thing he said that I thought was appropriate. He said we shouldn't be debating this at 7:30. I agree. We should have been debating it at 4:20. That would have been a much better time. But other than that, he says, What about 15-year-olds, they'll see marijuana centers.

Well, they'll see liquor stores. They'll see many more liquor stores than marijuana centers. The notion that because something is inappropriate for a teenager or a child, adults should not be allowed to use it, is mindlessness. You can't run a society that says we're not going to let a 15-year-old see the things a 15-year-old can't do. Liquor stores would be a great example.

I have been disappointed on this point with the Obama administration. The Clinton administration was quite sensible on this. The Bush administration slipped back, and I had hoped that with the Obama administration it would be more sensible.

The gentleman from Virginia said, Well, this is a great source of money for the Mexicans. Sure, because we won't let people grow it in America. To the extent that people are buying medical marijuana from Mexican drug cartels, I think, is a somewhat overdone thing with regard to this. That's because we have had people refusing to allow them to grow it here in America for that use.

People say--again, I'm surprised by some of my conservative friends--there is no medical value. The Federal Government now becomes the arbiter and tells the States you may not make that judgment that there is medical value. We know an awful lot of people think it has medical value for them.

As to addiction and the notion that if you get all these drugs together, what marijuana has in common with Oxycontin--which the gentleman from Virginia mentioned--and other drugs is that we treat them the same. They are not the same in any rational way. They're not the same in addictive prospects. They're not the same except we treat them the same. And we're the ones that by this foolish policy--that I regret the administration I supported is engaging in--give people the notion that they're the same thing. It's a very simple point.

People in the States have voted that marijuana should be available for people who want to use it for medicinal purposes, and the States are then in charge of setting up ways to deal with it. We have people out of their ideological opposition announcing that they will not be allowed to do that, that they will tell people it has no medical use despite the testimony of so many who think it does. This again is a form that I thought we learned didn't work, and it's prohibition of the worst sort. And by the way, it is going to lead to very ineffective law enforcement because we are a free country. You cannot impose, in a free society like ours, a regime of law enforcement that the public rejects without a great deal of repression. State by State by State, the people of the States have voted to allow this. So when we send the Federal agents in to disregard what the State did, to disregard State law, of course you're going to engender resistance; of course you're going to engender people going around. And I would just close by saying after listening to this debate, I think tonight C SPAN has merged with Turner Classic Movies because ``Reefer Madness,'' that great movie from the thirties, appears to be being shown on both channels.

This notion that because 15-year-olds are watching us talk about how people who are ill and in pain should be allowed with the vote of the State to get marijuana prescribed by a doctor, and that's going to lead a 15-year-old to go out and do it, makes no logical sense. As I said, if you're worried about what 15-year-olds can see, they can see X-rated movies that are being advertised; they can see cigarettes being sold widely; they can see alcohol. They can see all manner of things that we don't want them to do.

This is a very sensible amendment. No one has shown, let me say finally--and you know the DEA, they want to do this. I have not seen the evidence that says that medical marijuana has led to any problem. I haven't seen it linked to crime. I haven't seen it linked to anything negative. What we have, frankly, are some prejudices being used to interfere with people's rights.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, to begin, I have read this amendment. And if it were to be law in an hour, it does not appear that it would affect anything that's now happening in the Federal Government.

The gentleman said that they were trying to undermine the act and that they should enforce it. In fact, the administration has been very clear: while they disagreed with the act, they would like it repealed, they in fact believe it's unconstitutional, it is now on the books, and nothing is being done in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act. That is, there are no things now going on where the Federal Government recognizes the rights of same-sex marriage.

So I guess my main opposition to this is that the bill is already big enough, but it doesn't add anything in substance. It adds a few words. I would yield if anyone can tell me what the reference is to not enforcing the act.

Now it is true the administration declined to defend the act in court, but not defending an act in court in no way means that you are contravening any enforcement. Going to court is a different story. As a matter of fact, the House Republican leadership has voted to go to court to defend it.

So I, again, would be glad if someone would tell me. The Defense of Marriage Act says the Federal Government

will grant no rights to same-sex married couples that come from marriage. It's not doing that. I agree the administration doesn't like that, but the suggestion that they are undermining the law is simply wrong.

Now I understand--and this may be the confusion--that the gentleman

originally planned to offer a different amendment, and that amendment, he was told, was not in order. Maybe he changed the amendment and somebody forgot to change the speech, because the speech he gave may apply to the earlier amendment, but it doesn't apply to this one. So it seems to me kind of a waste. It's late in the evening. But the evening is shot anyway.

It does not say the administration shouldn't go to court. That is not contravening the Defense of Marriage Act. Contravening the Defense of Marriage Act would be extending benefits. And I want to reassure the gentleman, when I get married in July to Jim, I will not be looking for any Federal benefits. He wouldn't be eligible for my pension, even if I got one--I won't get one. But he wouldn't be eligible if I got one. I am very familiar with this.

In fact, nothing being done now by the Federal Government or contemplated by this administration contravenes the Defense of Marriage Act. What the administration says is: We think it's unconstitutional, and we are going to oppose it.

Now I know there are some who say--the gentleman from Kansas, I agree, didn't say that--some have said, How dare you to ask the court to throw out a law passed by Congress. You've heard that rhetoric. After all, Congress passed this. How does the court dare to overthrow it? Well, that's an argument I used to hear from my conservative friends a lot more before the health care bill came up.

So let's be clear, there are now two major pieces of legislation passed by this Congress--not this particular one--that are being contested and people are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw them out. One is the Defense of Marriage Act, one is the health care bill. You can be against, in principle, the court's throwing out an act of Congress as unconstitutional. You can be for it in principle and differ as to the application. But there isn't any way that you can say it is perfectly legitimate to cancel the health care bill through judicial intervention but not to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act.

So I assume they're going to want a roll call because they went through all this effort, they'd like to be able to talk about it in campaigns. It literally means nothing because there is no contravention going on now. So I'll be glad to vote against it. If other people vote for it, they can do so.

Again, the Defense of Marriage Act says you don't grant benefits to same-sex couples as if they were married. Nobody is doing that. That isn't happening. It isn't planned. It won't happen until and unless the Supreme Court finds unconstitutionality. And refusing to defend an act in court, in the English language, is not contravention. As a matter of fact, it says none of the funds made available may be used in contravention. Well, not going to court is not using funds. Maybe he meant to say none of the funds under this act may be not used in contravention, because we certainly aren't spending by not spending any money. So maybe he meant to say we should spend the money, I don't know.

But I understand his original intention was ruled out of order. He had a place in the agenda, so he offered an amendment. But it doesn't mean very much.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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